business news in context, analysis with attitude

The New York Times has an interview with Kathryn McLay, CEO of Walmart-owned Sam's Club, in which she discusses the ongoing debate about an increase in the federal minimum wage.  The story quotes her as saying that "calls to raise the federal minimum wage often lacked important nuance, like the fact that the cost of living varied wildly from city to city. She added that Walmart offered other forms of compensation beyond hourly pay, and that the company supported raising the minimum wage, though she did not offer a target number."

Some excerpts from the interview:

•  "What I look at is, 'How do I create great jobs and great careers?' The starting wage is one thing, but is very different in California than it is in Alabama, so having one amount across the nation can cause a little bit of a disparity. So really what I’ve been trying to focus on is how do we design the job so it’s something that people want to do? How do you make people feel a sense of team, so they feel known and valued?

"There are a lot of elements that go into making sure that people feel like this is a great job for them, and that they can earn an income that enables them to look after themselves and their household. One of the things that Walmart and Sam’s Club have done really, really well is that growth in getting people from hourly through to management. I mean, Walmart C.E.O. Doug McMillon started out as an hourly associate … 75 percent of our managers started as hourly. So there is a pathway there, and that is true. So as much as the $15 compensation is important, I think you have to look more holistically. We’ve got meat cutters who earn $24 an hour. But as a company, I’m most interested in: 'How do I create those career ladders? How do I create great jobs? How do I make sure people have a sense of fulfillment through the work that they do?'"

•  "Walmart has agreed that the federal wage should be raised, and we’ve advocated for that through the Business Roundtable, through government relations, etc. So it’s not that we’re saying that the federal wage shouldn’t be raised … I think we have been consistently increasing the amount that we pay as a start rate. We also look at all of these other elements that go into making it a great place to work. If you look at what we paid in bonuses last year, if you look at what we’ve done through education, there was a lot that was done to share back with associates. I think it’s really important that they know how valued they are."